The swami predicts an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl
but bet on Kurt Warner if the odds are right
Well fans, who could ever have hoped back in Phoenix that their Cardinals, 100% decimated first by the Vikes (in Arizona), and then by the Patriots, would be hosting the NFC championship to the Eagles, who clobbered them on Thanksgiving Day. The gods truly are crazy. It would be too deliciously improbable and romantic for Kurt Warner and the Cards to make it to the Super Bowl, after his personal, and their institutional, long, long wander in the wilderness. The fates will surely come to their senses and allow that trip to the Eagles, and Donovan McNabb, who would be fulfilling a storybook destiny of his own after all his ups and downs in the City of Brotherly Love, where the typical fan is goon enough to be fined $100,000 a week, if the league had such authority. And the tough Philly defense should inject a stiff dose of reality into this scenario before anything too unreal takes place. Still, the hot, thin air of the desert should favor offense, and the unlikely outcome.
On the other side, who would bet against the tough defense of the Steelers against Baltimore, on a typically rotten January day in western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin now looks more than ever like the man that a certain local sports journalist recommended for elevation from defensive coordinator to the head coach position in Minnesota, and the letting go of Brad Childress to deserved perdition. It is not too late to work that equation again, substituting Leslie Frazier for Mike Tomlin.
But that wonít happen, Childress having accomplished the requisite to ensure at least another yearís employment in his present position. And, to be fair, the promotion of two of his defensive coordinators to head coach positions in three years is very much to his credit. How often does an offensive-minded head coach pick his defensive cohorts so unerringly?
Next year, how will he improve on 10-6 and move deeper into the playoffs, aside from finding some way to improve at QB, plenty of topic for another entire column? There will be serious problems to solve along the offensive line, where erstwhile pro-bowler Matt Birk will likely be gone at the center spot, and the right guard, Anthony Herrera, and tackle, Ryan Cook, have not been consistent, to put it kindly. Meanwhile, the backup for those spots, Artis Hicks, is a journeyman with a nagging injury. This is where a first round choice might well be spent, and the draft will be rich in offensive lineman.
It also appears that the Vikes could use an upgrade at wide receiver. Tarvaris Jackson might be slow on the trigger, but itís not as though his targets were often wide open for the obvious completion. Sidney Rice had a disappointing season, though perhaps due to injury; it would be nice to have a big wideout who could go up for the ball, especially in the end zone. One of the big reasons that Arizona has penetrated so surprisingly deep into the playoffs is Larry Fitzgeraldís uncanny ability to do just that. An early choice or free agent acquisition in this area would be nice.
And I would advise the resigning of Darren Sharper in the defensive backfield, along with the acquisition from somewhere of another cornerback. Cedric Griffin may be developing into a first rate cover guy to go along with his skills as a tackler, but the good nickel corner remains to be found or developed. Hopefully the doctors have re-threaded Charles Gordonís ankle and got his foot screwed back on right. Without an upgrade from him or someone else, the Vikes will still be giving up the long third down conversion by an ultimately suspect defense.